Demolition of St. Anne’s set as city breaks ground on public safety center

 

NEW BEDFORD — A commanding South End corner, once home to St. Anne’s Church, will soon be transformed into a hub for fire, police and ambulance services.

Mayor Jon Mitchell, members of the City Council and leaders of the city’s public safety services held a ceremonial groundbreaking Monday for the South End Public Safety Center at 890 Brock Ave on the peninsula.

“This is a real mark of the city’s deciding to raise the bar for itself, to … build a first-rate public safety facility in a very important part of the city,” Mitchell said.

The 25,000 square-foot building will stretch from the corner of Brock Avenue and Ruth Street back to Salisbury Street, allowing fire trucks to enter from the rear. Trucks will exit directly onto Brock Avenue from four garage bays. A fifth bay will house an ambulance.

“The Ruth Street neighborhood has suffered for many decades, especially after Saint Anne’s Church closed over two decades ago,” Mitchell said. “It’s become less stable. Although in the last few years it has certainly become more stable and more safe, this … project will work very well to be an anchor for the neighborhood, in a neighborhood that needs that kind of anchor.”

The city will consolidate five deteriorating public safety buildings into one, at a price of $19 million. The cost to replace the buildings separately would top $30 million, the mayor said.

Workers are scheduled to begin demolishing the old Catholic church and school within weeks.

The city opened the former church to visitors at yesterday’s ceremony. Most of the pews and religious artifacts had been removed.

The Diocese of Fall River closed St. Anne’s in 2004 and combined the parish with St. James’ Church on County Street, which is now called Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish at St. James Church. It has been vacant since.

Among the city services that will move to the new facility are fire stations 6 and 11. Station 6, located at 151 Purchase St., dates to 1882; and Station 11 at 754 Brock Avenue to 1907 — “both terrific buildings, but both past their prime,” Mitchell said.

New Bedford has not built a new fire station since the 1950s.

Outgoing Fire Chief Michael Gomes said he advocated for updates at the new building that would put firefighters’ safety at the forefront — things like separating fire-contaminated materials from personnel space.

Of the city’s seven fire stations, four are so old they were designed for fire apparatus drawn by horses, he said.

Mitchell said the plan for a combined public safety center stems from a 2015 study the city commissioned a few years ago from FACETS Consulting, which recommended consolidating the two South End fire stations.

The new facility will allow first responders quick access to numerous points in the southern part of the city, and residents will take comfort in having a police presence in the neighborhood, he said.

New Bedford Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro was not able to attend the ceremony, but Deputy Chief Paul Oliveira delivered thanks on behalf of the departments. He said the existing South End substation is inadequate.

“This is a blessing for our officers, and we appreciate all the effort and time that’s gone into it,” he said.

The facility will hold six municipal functions: fire, police, emergency medical services, emergency management, fire prevention and animal control.

It is projected to open in the first half of 2021.

In addition to police and fire stations, the new structure will replace the former Fire Station 3, which now houses animal control and the Emergency Management Office, as well as 1204 Purchase Street, which houses the Fire Department’s Fire Prevention Division.

“This is going to be first-rate — because that’s what New Bedford deserves,” Mitchell said.

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$1M grant ‘a big step into the future’ for New Bedford waterfront

Posted Feb 13, 2018 at 5:30 PM

A $1 million grant awarded Tuesday will make life on the waterfront a little easier for New Bedford’s Police and Fire Departments as well as the Harbor Development Commission.

The Seaport Economic Council approved the grant, which will help the city build a 2,745-square-foot Central Command Center on City Pier 3 for the three departments.

“This is really, really critical,” Executive Director of the HDC Ed Anthes Washburn said. “Right now our operations are spread (out).”

Currently, the HDC is housed in the Wharfinger Building, with two assistant harbormasters located at Popes Island. New Bedford police marine unit is based in a small building near the Wharfinger Building, while firefighters are located on Pleasant Street.

The application for the grant stated the building would offer office space for HDC staff, space for police and fire as well as response and training rooms to provide streamlined communication among the three units during daily port operations and emergencies.

“By being able to pool everyone together and put them into one command center, the collaboration becomes very effective,” Police Chief Joe Cordeiro said. “It enables us to expand and share technology. It’s all in one center.”

Anthes Washburn pointed to the recent sinkings of the fishing vessels Nemesis and Dinah Jane as an example of how a Command Center is beneficial. While each arm of the city responded separately, if they were under one roof, the response would allow for a quicker reaction.

“This will get us much closer to our response assets,” Fire Chief Michael Gomes said. “And having the police marine security unit, the port authority, and the assistant harbormasters all in the same building and in same place will increase coordination.”

Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration awarded a total of $4.1 million to five marine infrastructure projects through the Seaport Economic Council. Mayor Jon Mitchell is a member of the council.

“The Seaport Economic Council is committed to helping communities effectively leverage their maritime resources, to create new opportunities for residents, tourists and businesses,” said Carolyn Kirk, the deputy secretary of Housing and Economic Development and vice-chair of the Seaport Economic Council.

The Harbor Development Commission stated it had outgrown its current building. Space will also be offered to state and federal authorities, like the Environmental Police and Coast Guard, if needed.

The new building will offer ample room for the HDC, police and fire to hold joint meetings, which wouldn’t be new, but are currently held in cramped space.

The $1 million grant will cover the majority of cost. The HDC will provide the remaining funds, which are yet to be determined, but Anthes Washburn said it would be at least $250,000.

The goal, he said, is to complete construction in June 2019.

“We really need a place to effectively manage traffic and manage the operations of a port like this,” Anthes Washburn said. “This grant from the seaport council is huge in having the port itself take a big step into the future.”

Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonnerSCT.

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New Bedford police start ‘Walk and Talk’ to strengthen community relations

Posted Jun 15, 2017 at 7:45 PM